Taking the Kids: Having some fun in the snow during learn a snow sport month
Maybe your New Year's resolution is to learn something new with the kids. Maybe you promised yourself you would all put down your devices and get outside more. Maybe you just want to show off that new jacket you got for Christmas.
How about some fun in the snow? There's no better time than January -- designated as Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month. Throughout the month of January, resorts across the country offer deals to get everyone to play in the snow, whether you choose downhill skiing, snowboarding or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. This year, about 100 Nordic centers are also participating. Get out there on January 11 for the National Learn to Ski or Snowboard Day Celebration and help set an industry record for the most beginner lessons taught in one day.
You don't need to hit the snow at the biggest (and priciest) resorts either. Go somewhere near home for starters. For example, more than 50 resorts across Michigan participate in the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association's (MSIA) “Discover Michigan” program. Beginner Alpine ski and snowboard lessons cost $35 and cross-country lessons cost $20. Ski PA is offering a $5 discount on beginner lessons midweek/non-holiday at their 19 member resorts.
Our new Fun in the Snow section, in partnership with Family Travel Forumcan help you plan your trip -- wherever you want to go and whatever your budget. Besides fun on the slopes, you'll find plenty of off-the-slope activities, everything from mountain coasters and dog sled tours to indoor pools and outdoor hot tubs. There is also moonlight snow-shoeing, zip lines, stargazing, even the chance to try an Olympic bobsled at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Several states have programs that introduce snow sports to grade school children, free of charge or with minimal fees. It's in an effort to support the next generation of resident snow sports fans everywhere from the East Coast, including snow resorts in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to Utah and Colorado. Check out The Family Travel Forum's directory of freebies for more information. The best part: You don't necessarily need to live in that state as long as you apply in advance of your trip.
Seek out resorts where kids ski free -- like Keystone Resort just 75 miles from Denver. Kids 12 and under ski and ride free all season with just two nights of lodging booked. New this season, Keystone Resort lodging guests can receive exclusive early lift access one full hour before the lifts open, granting them first tracks and the chance to get in a few runs together before ski school. Keystone's signature and complimentary Kidtopia programming is certainly a value added for families. It offers parades, fireworks, craft projects and the world's largest Snow Fort.
There are designated Kids Ski Free weeks at Sunday River in Maine while Jackson Hole in Wyoming offers nonstop airlift from 12 major cities and special deals like the Kids 14 and Under Ski and Rent Free offer. Another plus: The chance to visit nearby Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in winter without the crowds.
The Four Mountains Aspen Snowmass resort in Colorado boasts a revamped base area at Snowmass. If you rent equipment for kids 7 to 12 from Four Mountain Sports, they get a free lift ticket for each day they ski. (Just make sure to book at least a month prior to arrival.)
If you are flying, you might be able to save more by booking your flights, lodging and lifts altogether. Sites like Liftopia.com can save you on lift tickets. Pass holders can score extra discounts on lodging, food, retail and lift tickets for those in your group who don't have the passes.
Don't let a family member with special needs miss out either. There are many adaptive programs around the country for those with physical and mental challenges, including the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park (read about the Adaptive Ski Program here) and the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado; the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah; Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and New England Disabled Sports at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire.
Coming from warm weather climes? A new woman-owned company, Slope Threads, can rent you what you need and deliver it free to where you are staying, cutting down on luggage.
For the ultimate convenience, I love that the Appalachian Mountain Club lodges in New Hampshire's White Mountains provide not only free gear for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing but jackets and snow pants, etc., to those who might not have them.
Ski Butlers and Black Tie Ski Rental deliver all your ski and snowboard equipment rentals directly to your accommodations across snow country, and then pick it all up at the end of your trip. They'll swap out gear on the mountain, too, if conditions change. No need to wait in line at a rental shop. Check to see if there are kids-free deals.
See you on the slopes!